A legal sex trade would only incentivise underground sex traffic rings and create an “open season for buyers, pimps and traffickers”, a women’s rights lobby has argued.
The Malta Women’s Lobby was responding to claims made by Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Rosianne Cutajar, who argued that sex work should be seen as a legitimate job as part of reform to decriminalise prositution.
“For thousands of people, prostitution is not a choice, but a trap. The overwhelming majority of prostitutes prefer to find an alternative means of survival and they would exit this trade if they could,” the MWL said in a press release.
The MWL took an opposing stance to Cutajar, arguing that it could never agree with those looking to normalise prostitution, claiming that it sends out the wrong message about women’s value in society.
“Prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation and abuse for most of the persons involved. Rather than creating an open season for buyers, pimps and traffickers, a new law needs to protect the vulnerable that fall through the safety net,” it said.
The MWL also argued that there is a need to further sanction buyers and traffickers who are taking advantage of “vulnerable members of society”, whilst noting that the legalisation of prostitution in other countries has only led to an increase in commercial interest in the underground market.
“The sex market is also strongly connected to criminal activity such as organised crime, drug trade, assault, sexual violence and money laundering. If we do not understand how engrained this criminality is in this business, we will not seek to eradicate it, but instead accept a defeatist attitude that allows it to grow.”
“The sex trade is not merely a business; it is a vicious parasite that embeds itself into the fabric of our society, our cultural identity and it will affect the relations between genders,” it said.
Cutajar is spearheading a reform to decriminalise prostitution, which is set to be discussed at Cabinet level in the coming months before a law is presented to Parliament.
While there’s been widespread agreement about the need to decriminalise prostitution, there’s been some political debate about whether Malta should adopt the ‘Nordic model’, which decriminalises prostitutes but criminalises their clients.
For the MWL, the legalisation of sex work not only leads to further exploitation of marginalised women and young girls, but grooms young women into a career in the sex industry, sending “the message that Malta is open for the business of exploitation.”
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